US Armenian Militaries Sign Agreement

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Senior US and Armenian military officials agreed on Wednesday December 13 a plan of joint actions for next year–which they said will boost military cooperation between the two countries. An agreement signed in Yerevan by General Mikael Harutiunian–chief of staff of the Armenian armed forces–and General Charles Simpson–a top commander of US troops in Europe–lists 19 "engagement activities" that will begin in January. A similar document will be signed by Simpson with Azerbaijan on Thursday.

According to the agreement–the US will help the Armenian military prepare for possible humanitarian operations and familiarize its high-ranking personnel with the status and structure of armed forces in the West. Simpson–who heads the Planning and Policy Division at the European Command of US troops–said US army officers will "enhance the understanding" by their Armenian colleagues of military-civilian relationships in democracies. He said the two sides will also cooperate to "counter proliferation of illegal goods across borders."

The US Department of Defense will next year allocate $1.3 million to train and equip Armenia’s border-guard and customs agencies. Armenia will also receive $300,000 worth of American equipment to de-mine areas along its vast border with Azerbaijan. Simpson said the Pentagon also envisages other de-mining projects for Armenia.

"We are looking at a bilateral agreement on increased training for Armenia," he told reporters in Yerevan. The clearing of minefields in the conflict-ravaged South Caucasus is "very important" for the US–he added.

Simpson said Washington has no intentions to establish a military presence in the region and that its efforts to forge closer military links with the three Caucasian states are part of the broader American policy of strengthening their independence. "It has only been recently that the Caucasus region has come under the responsibility of European command. So we are just beginning our engagement activity to build a course for the future," he said. According to Simpson any US participation in a future peace -keeping operation in Nagorno-Karabakh could only be on a consenting-nations basis.

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